Tuesday, October 30, 2012

“Bounty” Replica Shipwrecked

A PHOTOGRAPH of a replica of the H.M.S. Bounty, which I took in Chicago, Illinois, in August, 2003.

Replica of the HMS Bounty, in Chicago, Illinois, USA (photo taken in August 2003)

This ship was lost during Hurricane Sandy. According to Wikipedia:
On October 25, 2012, the vessel left New London, Connecticut, heading for St. Petersburg, Florida, initially going on an easterly course to avoid Hurricane Sandy. On 29 October 2012 at 03:54 EDT, the ship's owner called the United States Coast Guard for help during the hurricane after she lost contact with the ship's master. The ship's master had reported she was taking on water off the coast of North Carolina, about 160 miles (260 km) from the storm, and the crew were preparing to abandon ship. There were sixteen people aboard. Vice Admiral Parker, USCG, reported the ship had sunk and fourteen people had been rescued from liferafts by two rescue helicopters. The storm had washed the captain and two crew overboard—one of the latter had made it to a liferaft, but the other two were missing. They wore orange survival suits complete with strobe lights, thereby giving rescuers some hope of finding them alive. Claudene Christian, one of the two missing crewmembers and a descendant of the original Bounty's Fletcher Christian, was found by the Coast Guard. She was unresponsive, and rushed to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The other missing crew member was long time Captain Robin Walbridge.
Bounty's last reported position was 33°54′N 73°50′W.

A “necessary declaration of Catholic independence.”

THE UNITED STATES is not a Christian country; this claim can be substantiated first by examining the beliefs of most of her Founding Fathers, and secondly by the nature of the political process itself: can true Christian discipleship exist within a man (or woman!) who desires the power invested in the U.S. government, and more importantly, is willing to do the vile things that are required to get elected?

Also, we must understand that even though the people of the United States are overwhelmingly Christian, the word ‘Christianity’ is defined here nominalistically — that is, the word is merely a vocal utterance, which means whatever the sayer wants it to mean. Under this hollow, un-philosophical system, what is Christian for you may not be Christian for me, and that the only things that our ‘Christianities’ have in common is the name, which means that the word means nothing at all. While we can take solace in Our Lord's promise that “where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” this is not a comprehensive theology for either the Church or for a nominally Christian State.

Realism, and not nominalism, is a great distinguishing mark of the philosophy of Catholicism, and this realism is key to having solid mathematics and natural sciences — and also theology and political science.

Catholics have always had an uneasy life in the republic, being seen as outsiders, and are only accepted — particularly for higher office — if they reject those parts of the Holy Faith that are not compatible with the common opinion of their party. As it so happens, Catholics in this country, especially those who are political, nowadays tend to conform quite closely to one or the other party lines.

In a review of the book Liberty, The God That Failed: Policing the Sacred and Constructing the Myths of the Secular State, from Locke to Obama, by Christopher A. Ferrara and Patrick McKinley Brennan, the book review author Dr. Christopher Shannon writes:
...Much of how you judge the Founders’ intentions and the historical record of religion and public life in American history depends upon what you mean by religion. Ferrara convincingly argues that the Founders were more or less Masonic deists to a man, with no desire to see anything like a robust, orthodox Christianity, even of the Protestant variety, shaping public life. They certainly believed that the health of the republic depended upon a disciplined, moral citizenry and believed that religion—at the very least, a belief in God and fear of damnation—was useful as a prop to support such a public morality. That the moral probity of eighteenth-century Masonic British gentry strikes many a conservative Catholic today as a rough approximation of a Catholic world view should be troubling to Catholics, whatever their politics. The only God that the Founders acknowledged as having public standing was, as Ferrara’s title suggests, the God of Liberty.

For Ferrara, Liberty is not a political ideal, but a rival faith, a false idol. His book is difficult reading for any Catholic, liberal or conservative, raised on the idea of the complete compatibility of Catholicism and the American Founding...
This does not mean that Catholics ought not be patriotic, for patriotism is direct result of the cardinal virtue of justice, and is a form of filial piety. It simply means that we ought not to believe in the philosophical foundations and current legal theories of our great empire.
...Ferrara argues that the whole modern social contract tradition has been nothing less than an alternative foundational myth, a parody or perversion of the origins of human society found in the Book of Genesis. If traditional Christendom saw the purpose of political life to approximate, within the limits of our fallen nature, the City of God amidst the City of Man, the social contract tradition understands politics as a tool for protecting individual freedom, particularly through the instrument of rights. In public life, Catholics have been all too willing to accept this myth as a guide to political action—such as the grounding of pro-life politics in a “right to life....”
Herein lies the problem. How can Catholics relate to the wider American culture? Protestants will not accept the teaching authority of the Church just as secularists will not accept the authority of the Bible. What mode of argument ought we use? For the time being, the bishops of the United States are using the language of the social contract, along with its notions of rights and duties, for at least that is language that is understood. But if those notions are false, this will lead to trouble in the future.

One of the annoying aspects of American political discourse is the inversion of the allegorical method of the interpretation of scripture. In its true sense, the literal meaning of writings allegorically point to greater spiritual, moral, or eschatological realities: the Song of Songs literally depicts lovers, but allegorically describes, among other things, the Church's relationship to Christ. In the inverted American political meaning, great spiritual exemplars are used as allegories for lesser literal things, and for this reason, so much political discourse has a misleading religious-sounding tone to it, such as slavery being called the “original sin” of the Republic. This is an example of the American vice of subordinating religion to the State, making it a means to a political end. Shannon continues:
If Locke’s political philosophy is at fundamental odds with Catholicism in theory, it is at odds with itself in practice. The great philosopher of liberty significantly excluded Catholicism from his vision of religious tolerance, largely because, through the person of the pope, the Catholic Church still claimed to have some public authority over the rule of princes. The so-called “Glorious Revolution” that drove a legitimate Catholic king (James II) from the throne of England and secured Protestant rule was followed by a century long battle to bleed Catholicism from the people of Ireland through a series of draconian penal laws. The irony of coercion in the name of freedom was not limited to eighteenth-century Ireland or the French Revolution, but has characterized the reign of Lockean freedom in American history...
The Original Sin of Eden is the original sin of the founding of the nation, and the American rejection of the actual original sin has led to other, greater sins. In American history, we usually find that great idealism is followed by great atrocity at the hands of the idealists themselves. The idealistic founding of the Republic was followed by a bloody war for independence (which was an unjust rebellion against a legitimate ruler); the liberation of slaves during the Civil War led to the genocide of the Indians; the New Deal led to the intentional bombing of civilians in World War II; and the Civil Rights movement led to the atrocity of abortion on demand. What future atrocities can we expect from our current round of idealists who seek novel rights and freedoms?

We ought to realize that the political philosophies of our nation are at their root Christian heresies. The ideals of rights and liberty did not ultimately come from any other milieu but orthodox Christianity, but like all heretics, modern adherents overemphasize one doctrine of the Church at the expense of the others. As Arianism overemphasized the humanity of Christ at the cost of His divinity, so does the contemporary system overemphasize the freedom of humankind over the doctrines regarding our slavery to sin.

The crimes of the Catholic Church are always loudly denounced, but these pale in comparison to the scale of the crimes committed by the heretics. How did King George III get the power to oppress the American colonies? Who instituted chattel slavery? Who caused depressions with widespread poverty? Who oppressed racial minorities? On the other hand, which Encyclicals or Catechisms encourage bloody revolution, slavery, economic depressions, genocide, racism, or the killing of innocents? Dr. Shannon instead tells American Catholics that we ought to recognize that the political ideals of our country are not consonant with Catholic teaching, but are in fact heresies and must be opposed:
Any honest look at American history will show that negative liberty, “freedom from,” has consistently triumphed in its battle against positive conceptions of human flourishing and the common good... Catholics can work with the American system, but they first must realize what it is. When the Church converted the Roman Empire, it knew that it was dealing with a pagan institution... If Catholics are to be truly Catholic in America, and not just a branch office of the Church of Liberty, we need to first stand apart from a political tradition born in a revolt against the Catholic Church....
This, he provocatively writes, is “a necessary declaration of Catholic independence.” However, we aren't going to start any bloody revolutions because of this, but rather pray for a conversion of hearts.

Fall Color at Tower Grove Park

THE LORD GIVES, and the Lord takes away, says Job, in one of the more heartbreaking books of sacred scripture. The beauty of one day can lead to a devastating storm the next. God's answer to Job's lament is the sublimity of creation, which we ought to appreciate and fear, but never take for granted.

Here are some photos from Tower Grove Park and environs, taken a dozen days ago, when the beauty of this Autumn's colors were at their peak.

Fall colors with cats in the Tower Grove nieghborhood

Orange leaves and dark blue sky, in the Tower Grove neighborhood of Saint Louis, Missouri

The sky was remarkably dark and blue; these colors you see here were not enhanced either in the camera nor in Photoshop.

Fall folliage with dark blue sky, at Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Red berries at Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Pink water lily at Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

This warm season means that many flowers have been blooming out of season, like this water lily.

Pink water lily and pads at Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Yellow mums and ruins, at Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Click here to read more about Tower Grove Park. More photos can be found here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

View of the Mississippi River, from scenic overlook at the Dupot Reservation Conservation Area, in Pike County, Missouri

A view of the Mississippi River, from scenic overlook at the Dupot Reservation Conservation Area, in Pike County, Missouri.

Photo of Saint Francis Solanus Church, in Quincy, Illinois

Saint Francis Solanus Church, in Quincy, Illinois, USA - exterior - low resolution

Saint Francis Solanus Church, in Quincy, Illinois, was founded in 1860 by Franciscan friars from Germany, and is administered by the Order of Friars Minor, Sacred Heart Province. It is located adjacent to the Franciscan Quincy University. The interior is magnificent, but I failed to take photos there during my visit.

The patron of the church, Saint Francisco Sánchez-Solano Jiménez (March 10th 1549 – July 14th 1610) was born in Spain, became a Franciscan, and gained the reputation as a wonderworker among the victims of the plague. Later, he worked in the missions in South America, where he became fluent in many native languages. Being also a musician, he is often depicted with a violin. Francis was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Benedictine Monks Making Beer

A VIDEO TOUR of a new brewery, operated by the Benedictine Monks of Norcia, located in Umbria, Italy:

Built above the birthplace of Saint Benedict and his twin sister Saint Scholastica — the founders of men's and women's monasticism in the Latin west — the original monastery was dissolved by Napoleon, but was re-populated by monks in December of 2000. The monks follow the Rule of Saint Benedict, and so their life is signified by both extensive prayer and by work:
...we pray the full monastic Office as laid out in the Rule. We observe the monastic fast and we have retained the patrimony of Gregorian chant. In addition, the Holy See has entrusted us with the special apostolate of celebrating the Eucharist in both forms (in utroque usu), that is, the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. We do all kinds of work (manual, clerical and intellectual) including some limited apostolic work. Monastic formation in Norcia focuses heavily on the interior life: conversion, self-knowledge, the rooting out of vices and the acquiring of virtues – all this to create the necessary conditions for contemplative prayer. We are a young international community, eager to love and serve Our Lord Jesus Christ with all our heart.
Generally, Benedictine monasteries are self-supporting, and in this monastery, by the making of beer. A description of their beer can be found here. They explain:
In complete harmony with the centuries old tradition, the monks of Norcia have sought to share with the world a product which came about in the very heart of the monastic life, one which reminds us of the goodness of creation and the potential that it contains. For the monks of Norcia, beer has always been a beverage reserved for special occasions, such as Sundays and Feast days. The project of the monastic brewery was conceived with the hope of sharing with others the joy arising from the labor of our own hands, so that in all things the Lord and Creator of all may be sanctified.
Having once worked as an industrial engineer at the beermaker Anheuser-Busch, I enjoyed viewing the monks' contemporary (albeit very low-volume) brewing machinery in the video.

Also of interest is the monks' list of books that they have read during meals, which can be seen here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall Color at the Shaw Nature Reserve

THIS SUMMER'S SEVERE drought caused widespread crop failure, but also harmed many trees. But late rains meant that fall foliage would once again put on a grand show of color before winter.

Fall Colors near Tyson Range on Interstate 44

Driving a short distance out of Saint Louis, along westbound Interstate 44, takes you into the foothills of the Ozark mountains. A beautiful region during a beautiful time of year.

The best times of the year in Saint Louis are April and October, not only because of the generally pleasant temperatures, but also because of spectacular natural color.

The following photos are at the Shaw Nature Reserve (formerly called the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - autumn tree in yellow

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - autumn tree in orange and green

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - clump of autumn trees on prairie

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - clump of autumn trees on prairie 2

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - prairie with figure

This prairie is maintained by periodic burning. It is filled with wildflowers in the spring, and fall brings its own colors.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - lone tree

Many of these photos were taken along the same path I recently took under the light of the full moon. See the article Night Photos at the Shaw Nature Reserve.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - red sumac leaves

Red sumac leaves.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - forest edge

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - forest path

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - glade

This is a glade, a dry, south-facing slope, which includes desert species not otherwise found in Missouri.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - Shooting star in glade

Shooting Star flower.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - autumn colors in glade

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - view of autumn forest

All of these photos were made to look best under full resolution: to my eye, they look a little bit rough here, and are cleaner at full size. Click the photo to be taken to Flickr, where you can see the full-sized images.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - yellow tree

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - forest path 2

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - cemetery

An old walled cemetery, hidden in the forest. The Fall of the year is a natural symbol for the fall of man — and the consequences of that fall. 

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - opening in trees

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - serpentine wall

The serpentine wall. The key to getting good color in photographs of autumn leaves is to avoid any overexposure whatsoever, which would turn bright reds and yellows into dull, pale unsaturated colors.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - wetland parking

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - large trees

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - view from path

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - lake

Before the drought, the water level would have filled the foreground. Several nearby lakes were at best only damp mud at this time.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - lake 2

Lily pads fill the lake, and many frogs and turtles can be found here.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - lake 3

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - prairie

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - wildlife viewing platform

A wildlife viewing platform.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - trees and path

Website of the Shaw Nature Reserve.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, mosaic of Saint Isaac Jogues, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, and Saint René Goupil

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha is depicted here in the mosaics at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, along with Saints Isaac Jogues and René Goupil. Saint Catherine, known as the Lily of the Mohawks, was canonized on Sunday by Pope Benedict, who speaks about here:

Click here for the text of his homily.

Friday, October 19, 2012

“The Lost Tools of Learning”

HAVE YOU EVER, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people, been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question, or to meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side?.

— Dorothy L. Sayers, The Lost Tools of Learning
So we read in the late Miss Sayers' essay on classical education, first given in 1947, a passage that seems to be rather relevant during this political season.

I found the link to this essay on the website of Our Lady of Lourdes School, in Denver, Colorado, which lately has found much success in its adoption of classical methods of education, namely, the trivium, which emphasizes the foundation of all learning. From the school's website:
One of the most important goals of education is to teach students how to learn. This goal can become lost in a mirage of textbooks that oversimplify and remove the traditional classical method of mental discipline to students. The classical method of education not only provides academic rigor, it also instructs and prepares the students to become independent thinkers based on their knowledge of grammar, logic and rhetoric. In short, classical education prepares and equips students to be leaders in the community with their ability to communicate logically with their peers and colleagues.
The roots of the classical tradition of learning are lost to history, but they crystallized in ancient Athens, in the mystical yet mathematical school of Pythagoras, and in the philosophical schools of Plato and Aristotle, following the master Socrates. While we don't know how much of this knowledge was perceived by these Greeks alone, we do know that they also passed down wisdom from Egypt and the East. These methods became the standard of good education in the Roman Empire, as we find in the books of the architect Vitruvius, and were retained through the middle ages and beyond, rendering it the ultimate “multicultural” curriculum, finding favor with Christians, Jews, Muslims, and pagans over thousands of years.

While modern pedagogy has emphasized the learning of useful facts or political propaganda (or nowadays, passing standardized tests), the classical model instead narrowly encourages a high level of language skills, logical thinking, and the ability to communicate persuasively. This is the foundation for a liberal education, that is, an education proper to a person who is free and not a slave. It is assumed that children who have these educational tools will freely learn throughout their lifetimes, and will have little need to be specifically taught various subjects, for they will eagerly learn these things on their own.

This is a two-edged sword: for the Catholic schools, a classically educated child can either end up to be an ardent defender of the Faith or a formidable arch-heretic, for it produces children who are either hot or cold, but not lukewarm. I think for this reason, our public schools (which by the way, have compulsory attendance) tend to produce children who are lukewarm, while remaining curiously inarticulate about the malaise of their lives, leading to either self-destructive pleasure-seeking or to violence. Therefore it is not surprising that the education which is forced upon children is not a liberal education, but rather is the education of a slave.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fall Colors

Red Maple Leaves

At my parents' house.

Fall colors above sandstone mines in Pacific, Missouri, USA

Trees above sandstone mines in Pacific, Missouri.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Night Photos at the Shaw Nature Reserve

AT THE LAST FULL MOON, I was invited to go on a special night hike at the Shaw Nature Reserve in Gray Summit, Missouri, which is located off of Interstate 44, west of Saint Louis. I took my camera to show some of the sights.

Shaw Nature Reserve (Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - Three cypress trees

Cypress trees grow next to a pond.

Formerly called The Arboretum, the initial acreage of Shaw Nature Reserve was purchased by the Missouri Botanical Garden during the 1920s. Air pollution in Saint Louis, due to the burning of soft coal for heating, caused so much airborne ash as to threaten the plants at the garden, most especially its orchid collection. The plan was to relocate the botanical garden to the countryside: however, when the city switched to cleaner-burning anthracite coal, the move was abandoned.

Shaw Nature Reserve (Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - Pinetum Lake

Part of the Reserve is actively managed to be a large, pleasant garden, as seen here, very much in the English tradition. This tradition makes an interesting distinction: a garden is designed to exclude animals (especially herbivores who might eat vegetables and flowers), while a park is designed to attract animals, especially deer and other game animals. This front area includes a high fence to exclude deer: a large wildflower garden, not seen in these photos, is nearby. Deer roam freely in the back area of the Reserve.

Shaw Nature Reserve (Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - Trees reflected in Pinetum Lake

A stand of trees reflected in Pinetum Lake against the late afternoon sky.

The English landscaping tradition was brought to the United States by colonists. The full intellectual flowering of this tradition occurred during the Victorian period, when the Missouri Botanical Garden was established. During this time, garden and park design was influenced by long experience and by innumerable authorities from antiquity, the middle ages, and later periods, as well as taking into consideration knowledge gained from other cultures.

See the article Photos of Tower Grove Park, which includes links to primary sources used by garden and park designers of the late 19th century.

Shaw Nature Reserve (Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - sunset

A glorious sunset, and the hike was soon to begin, led by an expert guide.

But the Victorian period was the twilight of the living landscape tradition. The idea that a landscape ought to be both useful and beautiful was in decline; in England, the Enclosure Acts and subsequent urbanization meant that the gardening tradition could only be practiced by a fortunate few instead of by the many. The advent of Modernism caused a divorce between agriculture and gardening. Farms became enormous in size and boring to look at due to monoculture, forests were managed to merely optimize the production of wood, with an emphasis on fire suppression, and odd modern theories of aesthetics led to gardens and parks that were often unpleasant and had little if any vegetation.

Shaw Nature Reserve (Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - Teepee

While the front part of the Reserve is managed to resemble a traditional English-style garden or park, the other parts are managed so as to restore the forest and prairies as they existed at the time of the initial European settlement of this area. Here is a large restored prairie area, and two primitive prairie-style homes are found here, including this teepee, and a nearby sod house — although our guide told us that these homes were not used in this part of the country, but rather two or three hundred miles to the west of here, in the Great Plains.

The earliest explorers of North America found that it resembled a large park in the English or European tradition. The explorers here found wide grasslands, appearing to be vast gardens, with vistas of wildflowers like an ocean of color, surrounded by forests of tall, ancient trees, with open ground below allowing for long views in all directions. Like a traditional European park, game was plentiful, and like a good garden, useful, edible, and beautiful plants were found everywhere.

But this was forgotten, and then dense, impenetrable forests soon grew throughout much of the territory of the United States. During this time of forestation, when Romanticism was the intellectual fad, there developed the misguided theory that the American Indians were noble savages, living lightly off the land, being “transparent in the landscape.” This ought to be contrasted with the earlier Enlightenment view of the Indians as being sub-human, only useful, if at all, as slaves. This false theory was revived after Darwinism, much to the detriment of those peoples subsequently, and the equally false noble savage theory regained prominence later, coinciding with the Environmentalist movement.

Shaw Nature Reserve (Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - Close up of teepee illumined by the full moon

Dwelling illumined only by the full moon, with stars in the background sky. The image is a bit blurry because I didn't have a tripod with me for stability.

The word teepee (or tipi or tepee) comes from the Lakota word thipi, which derives from a plural form of the verb ‘to dewll.’ These were developed after European colonization, when the Indians obtained horses and found that they had to move more frequently to survive.

As it turns out, the Indians did not tred lightly on the land, but instead altered it greatly, often by using fire. There is no “natural landscape” of North America, especially since what came before was destroyed by the Ice Age; humanity came with the retreating glaciers and gardened the whole of the land. The natives used fire extensively to encourage game animals, promote growth of desirable vegetation, and for other purposes, producing a landscape that was simultaneously beautiful and fecund, far more than a land without man. This fact only became apparent by the 1970s; fire subsequently was recognized to be an essential ingredient of landscaping, and is used frequently at the Reserve.

We find the same thing in Europe where the tradition holds sway: fertile, beautiful landscapes that have an organic unity despite being heavily altered by man over the millennia, as can be seen in some remarkable photographs taken in Moravia and Tuscany here.

Indian culture, like all cultures, was problematic due to the effects of original sin. But the Indians were perhaps closer to orthodoxy than are modern men, the Indians retaining a memory of the order of the cosmos, natural law, and how things ought to be, all things which modernity rejects. The traditional gardening practices of the Indians show a largely orthodox understanding: man's dominion over nature, as found in Genesis, does not equate to either a libertarian or socialistic totalitarian dominance over nature, nor does it show a gnostic-like hatred of nature, neither a world divided between man and nature with a high wall of separation between them. Rather, man is recognized as being at the summit of nature while sharing a close kinship with it; this nature is a gift to man deserving of thanksgiving, and man owes obedience to that which is above. Not surprisingly, the Indians became exemplary Catholics, and Catholic priests accompanied their sorrowful flocks to the reservations. Sadly, since then, both the state and commerce have aggressively pursued their modernization.

Shaw Nature Reserve (Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - severely blurred and impressionistic image of prairie

This not an impressionistic painting of the prairie, but rather a greatly underexposed photograph, with lots of Photoshop used to brighten it, reduce digital noise, and otherwise improve it. My techniques can be found here.

Since this was a long hike, and my tripod is quite heavy, I didn't carry it with me. As dusk ended, I attempted to take photos by hand, even though the camera's exposure meter said it was inadvisable. Now, I don't have one of those newer cameras which have great light-amplifying power, so I had to push the camera to the limits of its performance, and clean up the mess afterwards on the computer. I find that these photos resemble paintings in some ways. I find great inspiration in the art of painting: sometimes reality is unrealistic, and so the more-abstracted and freer art of painting can give a better impression than a photograph. Were I to have used a tripod, this scene would have been nearly indistinguishable from broad daylight; rather, this image maybe gives a better representation of the prairie road under the moonlight.

Shaw Nature Reserve (Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - severely underexposed image of sod house on prairie

This is the sod-house, located on the prairie. This is just about at the limit of what you can do with a camera and still call it photography. During the time I was making this image, I was reading about the Japanese notan principle of design, which uses only a few levels of tones to produce a flat-looking image which emphasizes edges.

Shaw Nature Reserve (Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - lone tree, blurry

I found this lone tree interesting. Were it not for the other hikers disappearing off into the distance, leaving us behind, I would have stayed longer with this subject.

The emphasis of photography these days tends to be highly modernistic, desiring high technical image quality and realistic rendering. But it was not always so: an earlier photographic movement, called Pictorialism, instead emphasized the human impression of a scene as well as the expression of beauty, making photos more works of manual art, with a spiritual dimension, rather than mere products of technology. Perhaps these low-quality images can be seen in this light.